If Civil War historian Shelby Foote were alive to document these NBA playoffs, he might compare Derrick Rose’s failed, end-of-regulation advances against LeBron James to “Pickett’s Charge.”
Tuesday night the rebel forces that were aligned against James, The Big Three and the Miami Heat suffered massive losses.
Watching James toy with the league’s MVP down the stretch was so demoralizing and awe-inspiring that continued resistance seems futile and misguided.
President Pat “Abraham Lincoln” Riley and Gen. LeBron “Ulysses S. Grant” James are going to win the war.
The Decision, the preseason victory celebration, the declarations about winning multiple championships and Dan Le Batard’s season-long smugness all will be justified.
Don’t read that as a prediction the Heat will win this year’s title. Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavericks can beat the Heat in a seven-game series. This year’s NBA Finals are simply a battle. It’s Gettysburg. Robert E. Lee and the rebel army didn’t surrender until 18 months after the disastrous “Pickett’s Charge.”
The NBA war is what’s important, and that is about which team will dominate the league over the next three or four seasons.
“Thibodeau’s Charge” — the ill-fated, late-game strategy of twice sending an exhausted, poor-shooting, 6-foot-2 guard one-on-one against a hungry, revenge-minded, 6-8 freak of nature — is the moment rebel sympathizers realized the futility of our cause.
Had I owned a Bulls jersey, I would’ve burned it in the streets Tuesday night.
Signs of retreat are everywhere. Charles Barkley and the entire “Inside the NBA” crew moved their studio set inside American Airlines Arena to avoid Heat supporters. NBA historian Bill Simmons called for Bulls enforcer Kurt Thomas to be activated and used to pop James and Dwyane Wade.
And this week, in the most telling sign of all, the Los Angeles Lakers reportedly have turned to Mike Brown to chaperone the end of Kobe Bryant’s career.
Again, the war is over. The only reason to dust off Brown, to give him a three-year contract with an option for a fourth, is to combat the LeBron James Era. Brown’s hire is about one thing: beating the Heat in the NBA Finals so Kobe can tie Michael Jordan with six titles.
Brown knows Bron better than any basketball coach in the world. Brown knows Bron better than Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley know Bron.
Brown collaborated with LeBron for five seasons in Cleveland. Brown groomed the two-time MVP. You have to believe Brown spent the past month telling Lakers executives that he knows how to slow the force of nature driving the NBA.
I’m sure Bryant really does love Brian Shaw, the Phil Jackson assistant who was supposed to get the job. But why throw support behind a rookie head coach, a coach with no specific intel on your greatest rival?
I’ve read all the nice words being tossed back and forth between Brown and Bron. I don’t buy it. That’s not inside information. It’s what I know about competitors. Last year’s loss to the Boston Celtics motivated James to leave Cleveland and seek a stronger supporting cast. Last year’s loss to the Boston Celtics motivated Brown, too.
As a coach, there’s no way Brown could be happy with the way James played and conducted himself during the Boston-Cleveland series. James’ body language and actions pointed a finger at Brown and the coaching staff.
Mike Brown wants to stop the Miami dynasty as much as Dan Gilbert, as much as Kobe Bryant.
Brown is going to smile and say all the right things about James and their days together in Cleveland. Behind the scenes, in private conversations with Kobe, Brown won’t be nearly as nice and cheerful.
More than ever before, this is King James’ league now. Kobe’s skills are in decline. Tuesday night, James made Rose’s MVP trophy look fraudulent. Carmelo, Amar’e and the Knicks need a real coach. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are children. Dirk Nowitzki will be 33 in a few days.
It’s good to be King.
But there are always forces plotting to unseat the King.
If American drug war historian David Simon were chronicling the NBA, he might compare the Brown-Bryant collaboration to Brother Mouzone and Omar Little teaming up to take out Stringer Bell.
I see it this way: Kobe is John McCain, a hero whose time has passed. And Brown is Sarah Palin, a poorly thrown, desperate Hail Mary pass.